Two years before Twitter launched and Facebook expanded membership beyond college students, before social media caused daily outrage, the Janet Jackson Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime controversy caused national indignation.
It was more than 15 years ago when Jackson performed with Justin Timberlake at the Super Bowl halftime show. The New England Patriots led the Carolina Panthers, 14-10. At the end of “Rock Your Body,” with the line “Gonna have you naked by the end of this song,” Timberlake tore away part of Jackson’s costume, exposing her right breast. Her nipple was covered by a nipple shield shaped like a sunburst, but CBS cameras quickly cut to a wide shot of the performers.
Nipplegate! Wardrobe malfunction! (Jackson claimed that a red bra underneath her bustier collapsed when her outfit was torn.) America was pissed! At least the part of America that gets outraged over such things. The Super Bowl is a family show!
For those who don’t vividly remember the incident and its aftermath, or want a refresher, FX and Hulu are ready to accommodate in their film partnership with the New York Times. As reported by Deadline, Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson will premiere on FX and Hulu on Nov. 19 as part of its “New York Times Presents” series of documentaries.
The FCC fined CBS $550,000. (The Supreme Court eventually dismissed that penalty, but this went to the Supreme Court!) America Online demanded a refund of the $7.5 million it paid the NFL to sponsor the halftime show. TV networks and radio stations monitored their content closely, censoring anything that might draw an FCC fine.
Janet Jackson suddenly became the embodiment of our nation’s moral deterioration. And her career never recovered. Her songs were barred from radio play, as were her music videos from television. Meanwhile, Timberlake was unaffected and went on to achieve superstardom. MTV, which produced the halftime show, was no longer allowed to produce entertainment for the NFL.
According to Deadline, Malfunction will include rare footage and interviews with MTV and NFL personnel that were supposedly in charge of that Super Bowl halftime show. The documentary will also feature reporting by the NY Times, talking to people in the music industry, cultural critics, and members of the Jackson family to recount the cultural impact that the controversy had. Jodi Gomes, who directed A&E’s reality series The Jacksons: A Family History, directed and produced the project.
Previous documentaries under the “New York Times Presents” banner include The Killing of Breonna Taylor, The Teenager Who Hacked Twitter, Framing Britney Spears, Move Fast and Vape Things, and Controlling Britney Spears.